Thursday, April 01, 2010

Father Lawrence Murphy Describes Problems Of The Deaf

The following is an article on Father Lawrence Murphy of Wisconsin, the priest at the heart of a sexual abuse scandal. It is from 1965.

Problems of Deaf Are Described

The great "invisible handicap," deafness, was described by the Rev. Lawrence Murphy, director of St. John's School for the Deaf, Milwaukee, to Janesville Serrans at a luncheon meeting Friday noon.

"Handicaps such as blindness, crippling injuries and mental retardation are obvious for all to see. Outwardly we cannot tell if a person is deaf, and this is the great tragedy of the handicap," he said.

The students at the school in Milwaukee are those who are not hard of hearing or deafened by a gradual loss of hearing. They are those who, regardless of amplification, cannot hear. The students are those whose parents have usually traveled the country looking for help, and when all hope is lost arrive here.

"This type of nerve deafness cannot be helped by an operation — the only medicine education," he stated. "There are only 10 Catholic elementary schools and two high schools for the deaf in the United States." Father Murphy mentioned that St. John's is becoming the third high school as it will add the ninth grade in September, 1965, and will have a full high school program by 1969.

There are 140 children in the school, but the job of teaching them is equivalent to teaching some 1,000 normal children because of the tremendous individual attention needed. We ordinarily have 8 to 10 children in a classroom. It takes 12 years for a child to complete his 8th grade education.

"The problem is becoming more acute because more children are being spared by modern medicines and are growing up with two or three handicaps such as brain injuries, mental retardation and cerebral palsy. The greatest handicap, however, is deafness as it is not only a physical handicap, but an educational, spiritual, emotional and social one. A completely deaf child at three years of age is like an animal — nothing has a meaning, he has no vocabulary and no means of communication."

"It is the task of our school to break through this world of silence. The ability to read lips is a talent which the child is either born with or not. This ability cannot be taught.

"To find out what it really means to be deaf, watch a TV program with no volume and you will be befuddled after one half hour — or try to watch a news commentator and see if you can understand. A deaf person's life is a constant television program with no knowledge as to what's behind the action.

"It is extremely hard to teach these children religion as they are unable to attend church services and understand what's going on due to the difference in lighting or ability of the priest to communicate."

Father Murphy concluded that the deaf children do not feel sorry for themselves since they have no problems with outside influences disturbing their sleep or their peace of mind.

--Janesville Daily Gazette, Janesville, Wisconsin, Jan. 9, 1965, p. 5.

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